The most important single problem facing our society today is the crisis in marriage! It is the root cause of many other serious problems. Read this article and learn how to build LASTING HAPPINESS into your marriage. Learn the vital keys to a full and abundant marriage.
"THE HAPPILY married couple seems to be an oddity!" So spoke a recognized authority on marriage problems. What has gone wrong with marriages? Why is the oldest and most enduring of all institutions beginning to crumble before our eyes? Why is happiness so rare while unhappiness soars to epidemic proportions? Why should many of the same problems responsible for this affect the marriages of people in God's Church?
Just as it takes more than a groundbreaking ceremony to construct a building, it takes more than a wedding ceremony to build a marriage. Most of you who are married and in God's Church today began to build your marriages before you were converted — before you understood God's purpose for marriage and the right way to build a truly happy and successful marriage. Your marriage began in the world, and you made many of the same mistakes which are responsible for creating our society's sickening marital breakdown. Much faulty construction went into your marriage. Your marriage was anything but a model marriage in God's sight! Just as you individually needed to be converted or CHANGED, so did many things in your marriage. Whenever a person is truly converted, he surrenders everything — his marriage included — to the supervision and control of Jesus Christ. We must invite Christ into our marriages, and, as our spiritual Building Inspector, He will determine which areas of construction need to be condemned and which can be preserved. In some areas, the change needed is so drastic that it calls for a total demolition of your former ideas and actions in marriage. Little, if anything, can be salvaged. They have to be replaced by new construction — done God's way — from the ground up. Other areas may need only minor renovating or "face-lifting." Some people have thought that baptism would automatically solve all their marriage problems — that their marriage would suddenly become filled with all the things they had hoped and prayed for. How disillusioning to find that all the problems which had formerly plagued the marriage aren't instantly solved. Usually, marriages do become happier than before. However, so many couples still have not yet experienced the FULLNESS of joy or the ABUNDANT HAPPINESS God intends for them to have. Many of you are settling for far less in your marriage than God has waiting for you.
It Takes Work
Whether it is building a new marriage or remodeling your already existing marriage in order to bring it into conformity with God's building code — it takes HARD WORK — and plenty of it! Many of you are experiencing continued problems in your marriage simply because you are not working on your marriage. You can't passively rely on God to change your marriage and fail to do your part. God won't do anything for us we are able to do for ourselves. And there is MUCH YOU CAN DO! Faith without works is dead — useless. The only way we ran have faith — positive confidence — that God will grant us success in our marriage is if we are vigorously and consistently striving to make our marriage work. And the only way any marriage will work is if both the husband and wife are working together to make it work! Once any couple gives up and quits trying to build a life together the marriage very quickly will fall into disrepair. Notice Christ's instructions to the Ephesian Church: "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and DO THE FIRST WORKS" (Rev. 2:4-5). Too many marriages are in exactly the same condition. The passage of years has diminished and dulled the love the couple once shared. The remedy for this loss of love is to GET TO WORK doing the very same things that formerly built this love. The following principles are actually living laws which will help build true love into a marriage or restore lost love.
Spend Time Together
There was once a time when the two of you were total strangers. You were living your own separate lives completely unaware of the other's existence. Then one day you met the person who was ultimately to become your life's partner. You didn't know it at the time, but gradually you began to be aware of the possibility and eventually YOU were convinced of its certainty. How did you reach this conclusion? Well, it first began by getting to know each other. This took time — time spent together. No matter how busy you were, you always seemed to find the time. The more you were around each other, the more you wanted to be with each other. The final solution seemed obvious — get married and spend more time together! Marriage should increase a couple's companionship. Togetherness after marriage is absolutely essential to build the closeness and oneness God intends a husband and wife to experience. It takes time — spent together — to truly become ONE FLESH. To achieve the harmony and unity necessary to inseparably bind two lives together as one. Yet some couples spend more time together before marriage than after marriage! Once married, there seems to be some giant conspiracy to keep you apart. More and more demands are made on your time. It becomes harder and harder to find time for each other. There is always something that needs to be done. Those evenings you used to spend together — alone — have been rapidly diminishing, until now you seldom if ever, enjoy the quiet companionship you once experienced. Though many of your evenings are spent in the same house, you are forced to admit you are seldom really together. The wife has the never-ending pressures of the kitchen and kids, while the husband is engaged in some household repair job, mowing the lawn, puttering around in the tool shed or just sitting, reading the paper. No wonder your marriage has failed to maintain the vitality and life it once had. No matter how beautiful a new building might be at first, it must receive continual attention in order to preserve its appearance. Upkeep is absolutely essential or it will eventually become run down and unappealing. Too many marriages have been allowed to become run down and have lost their original attraction and appeal, because the couple has made the serious mistake of not spending the time to maintain what they originally spent time in building.
First Place In Your Life
Don't allow anything to crowd your partner-for-life out of your life. Physically speaking, your husband or wife must always remain the MOST IMPORTANT PERSON to you in all the world. There should be no one you had rather be with. It is wrong for a husband to allow his job or some outside interest to usurp first place in his interest and efforts. That place must always remain reserved for his wife. Your attitude toward your job should be family-oriented — not selfishly oriented. Remember, men, there is more to being a husband and father than simply being the "breadwinner." Your responsibility is far from fulfilled when you bring home the paycheck. Material things can never be a substitute for your presence and strength of leadership as the dynamic. head of your home. These are things money of itself cannot buy. Wives, don't make the serious mistake of neglecting your husbands despite the constant pressure of the never-ending routine of housework. It is true that a woman's work is never done. This does not mean, however, that a wife is justified in neglecting her husband. No matter how much there is to do, you can't afford not finding the time to spend together. YOUR HUSBAND MUST ALWAYS BE FIRST IN YOUR LIFE! Neither your children nor your home are more important than your husband. Your husband is the one who provides the home you are so busily trying to keep clean. Your husband is the very one responsible for begetting the children for whom you provide such loving care. Yet some wives have allowed their devotion to their homes and children literally to shove their husbands practically out of their lives. Just as God, who provides us with every good thing, demands first place in our lives and commands us not to put any other gods before Him, even so your husband — your physical provider — must not have anything or anyone put before him in your interests and affections. No — not even your children! To do so makes you guilty of MARITAL IDOLATRY!! You must find time to be together — ALONE. With the many other demands on your time, you will have to make a concerted effort to CAPTURE sufficient time for each other. Otherwise, your good intentions are doomed to fail. The only time many husbands and wives meet for any extended period of time is when they happen to "run into each other" in bed. No wonder many couples find this less than satisfying. Success in the sexual aspect of marriage is directly related to the degree of togetherness in the marriage as whole. No wife can satisfactorily respond to her husband's attention unless there is a close, common bond already existing between them. Husbands — you can't make up for your lack of attention all evening with a few hasty minutes of affection when thrown together in this relationship. One of the best times for a husband and wife to spend together is after the children have gone to bed. Some parents make the mistake of allowing their children to stay up too late at night and so cut into this potential time for private companionship. Once you are finally together — alone — be present in mind as well as in body. Give each other the attention and concern that shows you are enjoying being together and not just dutifully "taking time" for each other. Give your time joyfully! Be thankful that you have a mate with whom you can spend time. There are many in God's Church who don't have the tremendous blessing of having someone with whom they can share their lives. Some have finally awakened — after it is too late.
Continue To Date
Does a married couple have to spend every evening staying home? Why must dating stop once you are married? Why should a husband suddenly become a boring "stick-in-the-mud" once he has won his "fair maiden"? The complaint of many wives is that their husbands never take them out any more. Is this the way to build a marriage? Dating doesn't have to be limited to single people who are out hunting for a mate. This is not the only purpose for dating. Unfortunately, too many of today's young people think it is. Dating is going out TOGETHER — releasing your wife from the confinement of the "four walls." Dating is a diversion from the normal, daily routine. It is a change of pace — a method of "re-creation" — that adds zeal and spark to life. It will rejuvenate and make you more effective in your work. Remember, husbands, your work automatically takes you out of the narrow confines of the house. Not so with your wife. She remains cooped up with the kids day after day. Granted, God says they should he "keepers at home" (Tit. 2:5). However, it is your responsibility to take out your wife periodically. A wife who has a husband thoughtful enough to provide this necessary break from her normal routine of household duties will not be off seeking some diversion on her own. It is the husband's responsibility to provide the recreational activities for his wife and family. You should plan to take out your wife at least once every two weeks. These dates need not always involve the expenditure of money. Many interesting activities are free. They could include such things as a picnic lunch in some spot of natural beauty, going hiking or fishing together. A word of caution — don't always select what yon personally prefer doing. However, you should not resent spending a little money to provide your wife with an enjoyable evening's entertainment. Don't become an old "penny pincher." No woman wants to be married to a "Scrooge." This is something you should include in your family budget. Sure you have numerous financial obligations, but you can't afford not to set aside a certain amount each month for entertainment and recreation. It will prove to be money wisely spent. These times together will be a rich investment in your happiness. You somehow afforded the money for dating before you were married. That was the price of winning her love. You can now afford to continue courting your wife in order to preserve and increase that love.
Talk To Each Other
Man is a unique creature. Though many animals can communicate with each other in simple, rudimentary ways, man is the only being of God's physical creation that has been endowed with the ability to take part in intelligent conversation. Conversation is a vital part of marriage. A recent sociological study, made by Cornell University Department of Child Development and Family Relations, showed that the more time husbands and wives spend talking with each other, the more likely they are to report a HIGH LEVEL OF MARITAL SATISFACTION. Conversation pays rich dividends! Yet when we look at many of today's marriages, we find that they are suffering from a breakdown in communications. There is almost a total lack of stimulating and constructive conversation. A mother of two, for example, commenting on her ten-year-old marriage, said, "It's heartbreaking. Before I was married, I used to go out on dates to restaurants, and just by looking around the room I could tell who was married and who wasn't. Either the married couples were eating in dead silence, or the woman was gabbing away while the man ate and pretended she wasn't there. I swore that this would never happen to me — but it has." The head of a large family counseling service said, "The complaint that the husband doesn't talk, just sits back or is withdrawn, is one of the most common problems we're faced with. I'd say that at least 50 percent of the troubled marriages we see share the factor of a silent husband." When the couple is asked by the marriage counselor when, why or how this communication breakdown occurred, they are not always able to give an answer. Usually, it has come about gradually and imperceptively. Husbands blame their wives for talking too much. The real blame, however, often lies with the husband. Granted — many wives do talk too much — but WHY do they? Because their husbands don't talk enough! God made the husband the head of the family. He is to be the leader, and this leadership includes conversation. Too many heads of families are DEADHEADS. They fancy themselves the strong, silent type. When in reality, they are just plain LAZY — MENTALLY LAZY. They don't want to expend the mental energy to produce an intelligent conversation. Instead of being the enthusiastic spark plug of the family — the one who is consistently initiating conversation, too many husbands are often too tired, a lifeless blob of humanity asleep on the couch or buried in the paper, or stuck in a stupor in front of the TV! All the wife gets is a few inarticulate grunts in response to her questions or comments. He eats his evening meal with nothing more than clicking jaws and an occasional "pass the salt" to break the silence. Of course, you're tired when you arrive home after a hard day's work. So is your wife — she has been working too, you know. Listening to the goos and gurgles of the baby all day isn't exactly high-level conversation. Children provide companionship, but by the time evening rolls around your wife is yearning for some mature and mentally stimulating conversation with her husband. You may have been talking all day at the office or on the job, but your wife hasn't. You are never justified in "clamming up" or giving your wife the silent treatment. Take the lead, initiate conversation. It may not come easily at first but practice makes perfect. You will find it will become easier all the time. And at the same time, your wife won't be talking as much since you are filling the former conversation vacuum she formerly felt obligated to fill.
What Is There To Talk About?
There are several important keys you can use to unlock numerous vital areas of helpful and stimulating conversation. First, you need to develop a genuine interest in what your husband or wife is doing during the day. Too many wives know practically nothing about their husbands' jobs. They either have no interest in their husbands' work or it is just as likely that their husbands have not wanted their wives "prying" into their business. One wife complained that whenever she tried to get her husband to tell her what he did all day, he would just mutter, "The usual," and start reading his newspaper. One of the greatest sources of a wife's tension is when her husband makes her feel left out. Husbands need to shave the experiences that happen to them in their work. Surely, there are a number of interesting things that happen every day and are worth talking about. Every wife should have a vital interest in her husband's work. Don't have the attitude his work is downtown and yours is in the home. Begin showing an interest and concern. His job is important to him, and whatever is important to him should be important to you. Husbands are often guilty of taking no interest in what their wives have been doing during the day. Yet a husband who is striving to be the actual head of his family will take an interest in his wife's work. Maybe most of the things she wants to tell you that happened to her during the day are little things — seemingly unimportant things. However, they concern the most important people in your life — your wife and children. They were important enough to demand her time and energies. She devoted herself to accomplishing them. And never forget, husbands, the highest calling any woman can ever fulfill is that of a HOMEMAKER. Her work IS IMPORTANT, and YOU should be interested in it!
Solve Problems Together
Whenever your wife tries to bring up some problem involving the children, do you usually cut her off with "That's your department. I go to work." Is your wife afraid to mention an area where she needs your help and advice because you are apt to either ignore her or "fly off the handle"? Do you have a monthly row about the bills? Do you accuse your wife of being a spendthrift or a poor manager? And does it usually end with your stomping off in a huff? According to Dr. Nathan Ackerman, a pioneer in family therapy and director of the Family Institute, the average modern father is a peripheral figure in the family — one who has dumped all responsibility for the home — like it or not — into his wife's lap. And often she doesn't like it one bit. One wife summed it up like this: "I have to make many decisions that should be shared. The only times I'm not tense are those rare occasions when my husband is home to share the load." The wife is not to be left with the responsibility of "running the home." It should be a joint project with the husband, as the head, providing the overall guidance and supervision, with the wife helping and assisting him. Major decisions affecting the entire household should always be made by the husband. This should not be done, however, in a high-handed or arbitrary manner. A husband should always welcome the advice and counsel of his wife. Your wife should never be afraid to express how she really feels. In a multitude of counsel, there is safety. Two heads are indeed better than one. No man should marry someone whose ability and wisdom he doesn't respect. Your wife can be a very valuable aid and help to you in making decisions and solving problems. However, she shouldn't be asked to do this for you. It is your responsibility.
A Fitting Help
You, wives, can be a tremendous source of encouragement to your husbands when tensions. pressures and problems mount on the job. Many husbands don't share such problems with their wives because they have learned by experience they will only receive criticism. And criticism is what a man needs least if he is already covering up any doubts or feelings of inadequacy about his work. You don't have to have a technical understanding of his work to inspire and encourage him. Maybe you don't know the difference between a slide rule and a yardstick. That's not what counts. What matters is your faith in him — your care and concern. When your husband knows you are standing with him — pulling for him — no matter what happens, this greatly lightens his load and fires him with determination to succeed. Few wives REALIZE how important this is! Times of family trial and crisis are tremendous blessings in disguise. When a group of wives were interviewed by McCall's magazine concerning the "silent husband problem" they were in 100 percent agreement that "one of the best times for husband-and-wife communication is when they have had a real setback." Every one of the women had experienced this. "Say he loses his job or one of the children is ill. Communication is at its best at that point," said one woman. "You need each other then." "A good disaster can be marvelous," said another. "Things that are pulling you apart fade into the background."
Be Open and Expressive
Dr. David R. Mace, executive director of American Association of Marriage Counselors stated, "Almost every serious marital problem begins with the withholding by one partner of information the other has the right to know. Deception breeds resentment; resentment hardens into hostility; hostility drives a wedge between the couple — this is the melancholy sequence of events in almost every marital disaster." Marriage is the most close and intimate of all human relationships. It is no place for a masquerade. A couple should be completely honest and open with each other before and after marriage. Yon should let each other know exactly how you feel. Here is a typical case history. "During our courtship what we used to talk about all the time was our feelings. We'd talk about being in love, that we were happy — or if we weren't happy, we'd talk about what was making us unhappy. I saw marriage as an endless investigation of the way we felt toward each other, toward EVERYTHING. You know I'm convinced he still loves me. But I can't tell you why I think it. I certainly don't hear it from him." The main complaint leveled against silent husbands is that men usually "can't express themselves the way women can. They don't tell you how they arc feeling, so you don't know where you stand." The image of the strong, silent type of man is a false one. A silent man is a WEAK-HUSBAND. Keeping your mouth shut is no sign of strength. It is a sign of selfishness, carelessness and mental laziness. Share your thoughts with your mate. Open up and express bow you feel. Suffering in silence doesn't solve anything. Discuss potential problems before they materialize into arguments. Don't allow tensions and grievances to build up until they reach the exploding point. The timing for such discussions is very important. Wives — don't store up gripes and complaints during the day and then set yourself like a coiled cobra ready to strike as soon as you hear the doorknob turn. Too often as soon as the husband sets foot in his "home sweet home," the artillery barrage begins. Being tired from his work and frustrated with the traffic, he is probably also primed and set to explode like a vial of nitroglycerin. If shaken up in the slightest way, he is apt to blow sky high. This is a volatile combination, and the stuff out of which family arguments are made. The time for solving problems is after the children are in bed and you are in a relaxed and congenial mood. Then you can calmly discuss the problems and set out to solve them in a sound-minded, Christ-like manner. As a wife you should never misuse the opportunity to express your true feelings by "telling your husband off" or launching into a tirade of accusations. Make sure you have prayed about it first and have examined yourself to find where you may have contributed to the problem. Welcome any correction your husband feels you need. Be open-minded and admit your faults. Husbands, welcome any suggestions your wife may have. If you are doing something that is wrong or that genuinely annoys her, be big enough to admit your mistakes and go to work to be a better husband.
Express Your Love
Love is not something we bottle up inside. Genuine love always finds ways of expressing itself. When is the last time you expressed your love to your mate — outside the bedroom? Maybe it was simply an affectionate pat or those welcome words, "I love you." These are some of the biggest "little things" you can do to build your marriage. Do you ever go out and buy your mate some small gift as an expression of your appreciation? This isn't going to break you financially. Too many in God's Church have quit giving gifts altogether since they stopped celebrating Christmas and birthdays. They are no longer under the obligation to remember a day. The date on the calendar doesn't produce the pressure it once did. Solomon said, "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith" (Prov. 15:17). A simple, inexpensive gift given in love is far better than an expensive gift dutifully given because of some day. Love is thoughtful and considerate. It is striving to enrich the life of the other. Take the husband who went into a florist shop to purchase a dozen roses for his wife. He asked the clerk if she had a small card on which he could write a brief note. The clerk asked if the occasion was a birthday or an anniversary. He said that it was no special occasion. He just wanted to give his wife a dozen roses. The clerk looked very puzzled. Finally, she found a small blank card and gave it to him. He then wrote the following words: "To a very special wife on just an ordinary day." Wives can do special little things for their husbands. Putting his slippers by his favorite chair. Preparing his favorite dish or some special dessert. Look for ways to serve each other. Express your love in little ways. Never forget to regularly say, "I LOVE YOU."
Pitch In and Help
One major cause of womens' tensions is the pressure of too much to do. One big gripe most wives have is that their husbands seem oblivious to the numerous opportunities where they could be of assistance. The husband gets up from the table after enjoying a delicious meal, wipes his mouth and then retires to the easy chair, while the wife is saddled with the dishes as well as keeping the children under control. After an evening of entertaining company, as soon as the guests leave "hubby" heads off to bed or settles down with a good book and leaves his wife the responsibility of digging her way out of the debris. You're late for services, and you thunder out, "Why can't you ever get ready on time" — oblivious to the fact that the only one you had to get ready was yourself. Your wife had to get all the children ready — in addition to herself. No one expects the husband to become a kitchen aide or a cleaning woman. However, there are times when every husband should be willing to pitch in and help. It shouldn't be beneath your dignity to carry your dishes to the kitchen, occasionally help with the dishes or take charge of assisting with the children. This will not only help lighten your wife's load, but will also serve as a real inspiration for her and help her to realize you are concerned.
Your Appearance Is Important
What is your personal appearance like when you are home? Are you at all concerned how you look around each other? When your husband arrives home after a hard day's work, what kind of an appearance do you present? How do you look when you greet him (or do you even bother to take the time to greet him)? Is he met at the door by a neat-appearing, smiling wife who is there to WELCOME home the most important person in her life? Or is he confronted by one who more resembles the "witch of Endor" — straggly, unkempt hair, a dress replete with the day's assorted spots and splatters, wearing a worn-out, exasperated look of the typical "martyred mother"? No wonder some men find it easier to stay at the office and work late or go out bowling with the fellows than face this ghastly specter. Listen gals — it doesn't take all that much time to run a comb through your hair, change your dress or possibly your apron will do, splash a dash of perfume here and there and be PREPARED TO GREET YOUR HUSBAND. This same shoe also fits you, husbands. If your work involves hard manual labor, you are not exactly a sight for sore eyes yourself. Your dirty coveralls and sweaty aroma don't serve to enhance your magnetic appeal. No wife likes to feel the touch of grimy, greasy hands. The least you can do is scrub your hands and comb your hair before arriving home. If your boots or shoes are muddy, make sure you remove them before making your "grand entrance" across your wife's freshly mopped kitchen floor. After the initial kiss and hug (don't forget these — they're indispensable), head directly to the shower and don't spare the soap. If you didn't shave that morning take time to remove the stubble before you leave the bathroom. Apply some refreshing, masculine after-shave lotion. Use it sparingly. Women usually find it quite devastating, and it might be too much of a shock for her system. Oh, by the way, don't crawl into some beat-up, old pair of pants and a paint-splattered shirt. You don't have to look sloppy in order to relax. NEVER STOP WORKING ON YOUR MARRIAGE! Don't tire or grow weary in APPLYING the principles brought out in this article. Whatsoever you sow you will also reap, and you will reap a bumper crop of lasting happiness in your marriage. You too can become one of those remarkable oddities — a HAPPILY MARRIED COUPLE.